You know, I always sorta dread going back and reviewing games that I remember loving, because I have little faith in my past self, and don’t really like the idea that I was praising something that didn’t really deserve it. However, I can thankfully say that is not the case with The World Ends With You. A title that I feel really dated for talking about, because I can’t compare it to it’s enhanced port for the iOS, under the subtitle of Solo Remix. But I promised myself when I started this blog, that I would review this game as a one year celebration, so I’ll do just that.
The World Ends With You Review
Release Date: 22/04/2008
Platforms: DS(Reviewed), iOS
Developer: Square Enix and Jupiter
Publisher: Square Enix
The game centers around Neku, an anti-social redhead who dislikes reality in general, and would prefer to spend all his teenage life being absorbed by artists of various mediums, rather than deal with people. Gee, I wonder why I connect with him so much. Either way, Neku finds himself in a fictional representation of Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Which is primarily different by being the hosting area for something known as the Reaper’s game. A series of seven life or death competition where two people must form a pact and fight off Reapers and their summoned cannon fodder, known as Noise. All while telling a story of friendship, trust, opening up, and all that good jazz. In tow with business and conspiracy, but that’s more of a secondary focus.
As it stands, the storyline is competent, even though the specifics about the Reaper’s Game need to be discovered by completing mission requirements in a post-game chapter select feature. But does manage to stay the route of the unexpected, and despite my clouded memory recalling it to be more than a little unoriginal, I still found it to be very compelling a good three years after first playing it. But I think that is due more to the style than anything else.
After pondering it for a good couple of hours, or however long it took me to beat this “20 or so hour title”, I think I found an accurate description for the visual direction in this game. it is pretty much what would be drawn after the art director for Kingdom Hearts watched Dead Leaves several times, before being told to wander across Tokyo for a week or so. While also apparently being with the character designer for Final Fantasy V. And then expand that into the soundtrack of the game, being mostly a surprisingly catchy mix of rock, hip hop, and electronica.
All held together by a translation that manages to help made me think this game went so far in trying to replicate cultures, that it created its own hybrid. By that, I mean that the translation is not only polished to a tee, but it manages to mix in American culture in well enough to stop it from feeling densely Japanese, but also like they aren’t ignoring it. I can not recall a single time I’ve ever seen someone unironically call a situation “wack”, call another person a “flake” or use the phrase, “Not baby-boom enough”. With my favorite being, “That’s aces, dawg.” So that might the reason why I am so geared towards this game’s overall style.
Along with having characters who manage to feel remarkably fleshed out, even if they only have about one to three pages of dialog. And the nothing short of brilliant secret story where Every character participates in a game within the game, that is already about a game… Tin Pin Slammers. Wherein Neku, who obviously learns to take off his headphones by the end, starting off as a cheery eager young soul who want’s to be the very best, like no one ever was.
However, the style over substance is always on the mind when talking about the look and general aesthetics of a game, but how does it feel. Quite good, actually. The core of the gameplay is controlling Neku solely with the bottom touchscreen, utilizing abilities known as Pins, in order to defeat the enemies, known as the Noise. Which might sound a bit tricky, when you consider how easy it would be to screw up single touch combat. But I actually only had a few instances where the game mistook my actions for another, and most of them were very easy to recover from. Although the simple act of moving could be a bit tricky at times, which only is an issue for off-screen enemies. Who really only affect the combo counter anyways.
Or, if you have super good reflexes, you can control two screens, with the D-Pad controlling the simple, but attention driven pattern based minigame on top. Well, if you want to. You could just have it work automatically, and hope the computer is able to handle combat when you decide to fight four consecutive fights in a row, after switching the difficulty to hard. I’ve heard some people complain about this feature, but I really did not have many problems with it, but that might just be how I always kept a healing item in tow if my partner screwed the pooch by forgetting they could dodge and block.
Yet, there is a lot more to it than that. With there being a lot of character management in regards Neku and his partners’ maintenance. From their clothing, how eating a hotdog makes them stronger, pancakes make them brave enough to wear a sailor suit, and your loadout of Pins. I would compare the whole Pin system to Pokemon, both have several hundreds of different options for loadout factors, a maximum of six characters per loadout, and an evolution system. Even though I’d say that The World Ends With You’s is a bit too complex for its own good.
To put it quite simply, there are three types of exp for pins, or PP as the game calls it. With certain pins needing to get the majority of their PP form a certain source in order to evolve. Which would be cool, except you need to guess which path is right after knowing they can evolve. the first method is battle, which is pretty self explanatory, just fight Noise to get your PP. Shutdown, where you need to stop playing for a while to get the PP. And Mingle, where you need to pass by someone else with their DS in wireless mode, and hope that it is recognized. Which, from what I could tell, was actually removed in the remake, so it must be someone else with the game, which is about $18 on the iOS marketplace, last time I checked. Now, you don’t really need to do a lot with all of this PP junk, which I am thankful for, but I can’t help but question whoever decided to include this. It just seems like busywork, and seems like one of those “social” parts of games that only make sense in a Japanese market, and not so much an American one. It’s no deal breaker, but I can’t hep but question it.
However, I really do like the underlying idea of there being a lot of optional stuff. You could follow a series of trends in order to get your certain pins to be more powerful. And get the right drops to get the best outfits in the game, along with all their abilities. But if you don’t? No problem, just keep the game on normal or easy, and you should be just fine, and have a lot of fun, finishing the game at level thirty, like my friend who got me into this game. Ot you could be like me, plan out your outfits, pin sets, and diet intake to get the highest stats every day, playing on hard util you can buy the overly expensive dresses and high heels to cram a male skater into, as he eats ice cream, much to his displeasure.
It’s those little things that make me love this game. From how you can change your level for better drops from Noise. To how siad drops are all pins, with even money being jumbled in there. How you can from the pin menu, sell excess pins before or after you get them to their highest level. How most chapters in this game have bonus enemies to fight, all of whom happen to be pigs. How when going to any one of the many shop, you have a friendship gauge with the employee there, who are actually given names along with a hello and goodbye audio clip. I’ve been saying it for about a year now, but a lot of what I use to determine how, “good” something is, I base on whether or not I find it to be in any way charming.
But going back to the visual stuff, I can’t help but adore the style. If you are truly repelled by it, you’re probably not going to like it. Hate to be so blunt, but that’s just the way I see it. But I do feel like I should praise the application of the spritework. Which, while lacking the same sort of polish that you see in things done by people like Konjak and Paul Robertson, is a very quality adaptation of the style. Sure, enemies have tons of recolors, and some animations like Neku tapping his foot are not anything that great, but I’ve got to say that it looks more appealing to me than the thick lined style they settled on for the remake. Something about the immediacy of the movement, and shifting from performing the actions of one pin to another, work very well, and I find even things like the way the text bubbles pop, I find to be very slick.
I could go on saying good thing after good thing about The World Ends WIth You. The problems that I have are very minute in the big picture. Some of the Pin Evolutions are annoying, as is controlling the partner. But those issues are very easy to ignore, assuming you don’t want to be in control of every single thing in this game. But when put against the striking and still a very distinct looking visuals, catchy as all hell soundtrack, and one of the most addictive combat systems I’ve seen since Code of Princess, the tiny things don’t get to me. From just being a game that manages to allow players to balance their own investment into the various flavors of Metagame, to delivering story and characters that only really fail in how I’d like to see more of them. I can see why many people would have issues with the combat, art direction, and even some spoilery instances in the storyline. But me? I can’t even call this game perfect, but I’d feel pretty bad if I couldn’t fit it in my top ten of all time.
An exceptional product that suffers from very few issues, to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.